One of the difficulties of atheism is that when you deny God’s existence, you leave yourself with no real basis for making moral decisions. Norman Geisler, in the book The Intellectuals Speak Out About God, tells a wonderful story about a philosophy student and his professor that moral dilemma of atheism.
“The student wrote a research paper arguing that there is no God; consequently, he went on to argue, there can be no objective or absolute moral principles. Judged by the paper’s research, scholarship, and argumentation, most would have agreed it was easily an A paper. The professor, however, wrote these words on the paper: F – I do not like this blue folder.
The student stormed into the professor’s office, waving his paper, protesting, ‘This is not fair! This is totally unjust! Why should I be graded on the color of the folder? It should have been graded on its contents, not its color!’
Once the student had settled down, the professor asked quietly, ‘Was this the paper which argued that on the basis of the godless universe in which we live, there are no objective moral principles such as fairness and justice? Did you not also argue that everything is a matter of one’s subjective likes and dislikes?’
‘Yes … yes …’ the student replied hesitantly. ‘Well then,’ said the professor, ‘I do not like blue folders. The grade will remain an F.’ Abruptly, the face of the young man changed. It struck him that he really did believe in objective moral principles such as fairness and justice. As the professor changed the grade to an A, the student left with a new understanding of the objective nature of morality. It is easy to proclaim that there is no God, but it is impossible to live consistently and honestly within the resulting atheistic framework.”
The moral dilemma of atheism is only one of the issues discussed in the book, which is a collection of essays by leading philosophers and scientists. It was published by Gateway in 1984 but is still available on Amazon.
Today we are doing something different, but we feel this is an area of apologetics that needs attention. In this day and time, Christians getting involved in prison work is an excellent evidence of the existence of God. Atheists are not going to spend time and money helping prisoners restore their lives.
We have over 4,000 students in our “Does God Exist?” correspondence course, and a vast percentage of them are in prison. They tell of losing their faith in God and immersing themselves in activities that landed them in prison. They take our courses in the hope that their faith can be rekindled, and they can rebuild what is left of their lives.
One of the programs that has assisted us is the Kings Crossings Prison Ministries in Corpus Christi, Texas, directed by Buck Griffith. They have a program called “NewLife Behavior Ministries” and a study called Christians Against Substance Abuse (CASA). Substance abuse is a major issue in America today, and many of our students have had substance abuse problems.
Buck Griffith has written a manual titled Loosed and Forgiven which describes how to start and grow a jail ministry. The manual has 151 pages, and it is the best resource we have seen on the mechanics of prison work. Helping prisoners restore their lives, and faith is a great way to demonstrate the love of Christ.
If you are interested in prison work, I recommend that you purchase Buck’s book. The cost is $14.95 plus shipping. For more information, contact NewLife Behavior Ministries, PO Box 270720, Corpus Christi, Texas 78427-0720. Their phone number is 361-855-3372, and their email is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find more information on their website www.nlbm.org.
In March, the state of Idaho enacted a law called the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.” The purpose was to protect women from having to compete in sports against males who identify themselves as females. Gender issues in women’s sports have created unfairness.
This was an international problem in the last Olympics as Russian men posed as women and became a factor in the Olympic competition. In Connecticut, two males who claimed to be females dominated high school track when they captured over a dozen championships and broke 17 long-standing female track records.
The question of gender identity has become an issue far beyond the rights of individuals who wish to identify with a different gender. When men decide to be women and compete in women’s athletic events, they affect the rights of all the women in that field. Chelsea Mitchell, a Connecticut high school senior, was the fastest female runner in four different state championships. She watched the gold medal and state title go to males who claimed to be females. Her statement was, “No girl should have to set out onto her starting blocks knowing that no matter how hard you work, you don’t have a fair shot at victory. Female athletes are only looking for a fair playing field. All we’re asking for is a fair chance.“
There is a biological difference between males and females. The biblical position is that God created males and females as individual entities, and all the evidence supports that fact. In America today, a person can legally express their sexuality any way they wish. Denying others the right to compete equally with those having the same biological makeup is a violation of the evidence and a violation of gender rights. Gender issues in women’s sports will continue to be a problem as long as people fail to accept the undeniable fact that men and women are different.
Advertisements for food supplements, diet plans, and “miracle cures” on the internet and television, in magazines, and newspapers continuously remind us that things in our environment threaten our existence. We are indeed attacked by human-made toxins, natural toxins, air and water pollution, ultraviolet radiation and x-rays from the Sun, and contaminants in the foods we eat. We have a natural body repair system that takes care of most of those threats.
The chemistry of the human body is an incredibly complex system in which a wide variety of chemicals keep us alive. There are 60-trillion cells in an average human body, and each cell has a chemical signature for what it does. Cells in your pancreas produce insulin and pump it into your bloodstream. Your thyroid produces a chemical that governs your metabolism. Your bone marrow and thymus gland produce antibodies that ward off disease. Those are only a few examples of the body repair system.
Most cells have thousands of chemical reactions going on at any given moment. The facilitators of this chemical system are proteins called enzymes. For every one of the thousands of chemical reactions that go on in each cell of your body, there is one specific protein molecule. It has just the right shape to bring two other molecules together and form bonds. That means there are massive numbers of enzymes to fill that role.
Our DNA contains the blueprints for making the enzymes, and our cells use those blueprints to make the proteins they need. If a cell is damaged, it dies, and another cell replaces it. If the DNA is damaged, then bad information is fed to the cells, and the result can be catastrophic. To avoid that problem, our DNA has segments known as genes. Each of the roughly 80,000 genes in the human body carries the information to assemble one enzyme and control one chemical reaction in the cell. This one enzyme can repair damage in the DNA, so the number of things that can kill a cell is significantly reduced by the body repair system.
Scientists are very interested in repair enzymes and how they keep our DNA functional. God has designed a system that enables us to live. Understanding that design is opening the door for new ways to cure the ills of humanity. Biochemists are researching and designing treatments for various genetic diseases. Reading about this kind of research always brings back the statement of David in Psalms 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works…”
Measuring the distance to stars is not as hard as you might think. As an earth science teacher at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, I enjoyed seeing a student’s eyes light up when they came to understand some scientific fact. They had thought it was beyond them, and suddenly it made sense. Knowing the distance to a star was always one of those facts. Let me show you how easy it is:
Look at a picture on the other side of the room. Hold your finger in front of your face and close one eye. Line up your finger and the object on the wall. Now close that eye and open the other eye, Does your finger appear to jump? If you drew a line between your eyes and extended a line from each eye to the picture, you would have a triangle. The apex angle at the picture is controlled by how far away it is from you. If you do the same experiment with an object that is closer, there will be a different angle.
The illustration on the right shows the Earth making its yearly orbit around the Sun. A line from the Earth to the Sun will establish a triangle. In six months, it will look like objects at the apex angle have moved. How much they will have moved depends on how far away they are. My classes do simulations of these measurements on the football field, and it becomes apparent how easy measuring the distance to stars can be.
The measurement unit astronomers use is based on how far away a star must be for the angle at the apex to be one arcsecond. We call that distance one parsec, and it is 3.26 light-years. If the parallax angle is .5 seconds of arc, the star must be 6.52 light-years away. The smaller the angle, the farther away the object is. The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, which has been underway since 2013, can measure the parallax angle to a millionth of a second of arc. Objects that move such a small amount are tens of thousands of light-years away.
If it has taken the light from the stars God created many tens of thousands of years to get here, it is evident that the creation didn’t happen a few thousand years ago. Verses describing the process of creation are untimed and undated. Let us not allow human traditions to challenge the integrity of the Bible. God created time, and He certainly is not limited by anything He created.
In June of 2016, Canada approved a law called MAID, which stands for “Medical Assistance In Dying.” It became the sixth country in the world to allow the practice, and there are nine states in the United States plus Washington D.C that have followed the Canadian model. Those who work in the field of medical assistance in dying tell us that there are three words they use in dealing with MAID. They are ACCEPT, ADAPT, and be at PEACE.
ACCEPTING the fact that you are going to die very soon is something that most people manage, but for some, it is accomplished more quickly than for others. One’s religious convictions or the lack of them can have a significant impact on when and how we accept death.
ADAPTING takes many forms and is frequently a function of how much pain we are in and how much our impending death affects those we love financially. Using MAID to avoid pain or to stop the loss of family finances is a growing adaption many people are choosing to make. A person’s medical and mental condition can affect how they adapt.
For a significant number of people, being able to donate organs to others is part of being at PEACE with one’s approaching death. An ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) victim named Fred Gillis said it this way: “ALS, you can’t take this away. We’re going to give life to other people.”
There are a wide variety of problems associated with MAID. The laws in Canada and the U.S. make it very difficult to give organs away if you are terminal yourself. If you have active cancer, you are ineligible to donate organs. If you die too slowly, you are not eligible. Even if you are on life support and you decide to pull the plug, about 30% of the time, the organs become nonviable. If donating an organ hastens your death, there is a “The Dead Donor Rule” that makes it impossible for you to donate organs. Fred Gillis was able to donate two kidneys, his lungs, and his liver when he died in April of 2018. The first 30 MAID donors in Canada gave 74 organs, which meant many lives were spared.
Medical assistance in dying is a tough issue for Christians. God gives life, and God makes it clear that the Holy Spirit lives in us. (See 1 Corinthians 3:16.) The need for organ donors is enormous, and allowing people to find peace as death approaches is also huge. It is hard to be rational when we or someone we love is facing death. It is essential to understand that a person’s death is when their soul departs, not necessarily when the physical organs stop working. As Christians, we must study and intelligently discuss this subject.
Costa Rica is home to 500,000 species of plants and animals that are unique to that country. Many times human actions such as rainforest destruction result in the loss of many unique species. For almost thirty years, the government of Costa Rica has worked with medical, pharmaceutical, agricultural, biotechnology, and food industries in what has been called biodiversity prospecting.
The National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica (INBio) was established in 1989. In 1991 they reached an agreement with the pharmaceutical giant Merck to explore the forests of Costa Rica to find marketable drugs from the resources there. Merck paid money up-front and agreed to pay royalties on any drugs they discovered. Instead of destroying the diversity of wildlife, bio-prospecting encourages sustainable use. Similar efforts could be made in other nations that still have unexplored regions both in forests and in ocean ecological systems.
We would suggest that one of the things God has done is to build into the world’s ecology materials that humans can use to promote their well being. These natural materials are much more likely to produce solutions without ecological drawbacks than human-made synthetics. The Bible refers to materials that ancient people used to serve various purposes. Genesis 30:14-16 is an example where the Hebrew word dudai is translated “mandrakes” and is also found in Song of Solomon 7:13. Another example is what the Hebrew rimmon translated “pomegranate” in Deuteronomy 8:8. In ancient times, people used it to make astringent medicines.
Biologists are still learning what ancient people knew, and what some primitive tribes in today’s world know about natural medicines. God has already created many solutions to what ails us, but they await our discovery. If biodiversity prospecting can bring financial resources to developing countries while sustaining their natural habitats and creatures, we believe that is good stewardship of God’s gifts.
One of the significant points of contention between those who believe in God and those who don’t is the concept of what makes us human. The biblical position is that humans are that form of life created in the image of God. Our spiritual makeup allows us to create art and music, worship a supreme being, feel guilt, be sympathetic, and have a form of love that is self-sacrificing and has nothing to do with survival. The atheist response to this is that our intelligence and brain structure accounts for these characteristics. The atheist insists that they are totally a product of our evolution.
What does the evidence show? That is a complicated question, and one we frequently address as science makes new discoveries. National Wildlife magazine (June/July 2020) published an interesting article about crows and research by John Marzluff at the University of Washington. For the past ten years, researchers at the university have been putting on caveman masks and catching and tagging crows. The crows have learned that the caveman face means trouble, and they mob and dive-bomb the researchers. When baby crows learn to fly, they immediately do the same, even though they do not have personal experience with being caught and tagged.
Crows are incredible creatures. Crows will fashion twigs into hooks to reach food in a hollow tree or limb. Other crows will drop nuts on a hard pavement to crack them open. Crows have learned to pay attention to what a farmer has in his hands. They will fly away from a farmer with a gun, but not when the same farmer holds a rake. Crows will help raise younger siblings, and that cooperation causes them to flock together and seemingly communicate with each other.
The point is that intelligence is not a measure of human-ness. The things that make humans different than crows is not our brain. Mentally challenged humans do the things that make us human. Many animals with high intelligence do not engage in those things. What makes us human is being created in the image of God. Having that image makes humans unique and special, and gives us value and purpose in our existence. Human life is sacred, and that hasn’t changed despite our abuse of one another.
You can go online and get all the factual information you want on every part of the human body. Put in the word “skin,” and you will be amazed at how much information there is about human skin. One comic said, “Your skin holds everything together.” In truth, it does much more than that.
We tend to classify humans based on their skin color, but our skin color is related to the needs of the body. Black objects radiate heat more efficiently than white objects. Take two identical cans and paint one black and the other white. Heat them to the same temperature and then let them sit in an insulated environment. The black can will cool off faster than the white can. Dark skin color is due to a biological pigment called melanin. Melanin absorbs ultraviolet light and thus protects the body. People living in tropical areas where they are exposed to more heat and ultraviolet light have more melanin than people living in cooler regions. There is, therefore, a latitude effect on skin color.
The more you study the design of your skin, the more amazing it is. One square inch of human skin contains nearly 20 million cells and 625 sweat glands. That square inch of skin can also have as many as 65 hairs, 19 feet (5.8 meters) of blood vessels, and 19,000 sensory cells. To limit bleeding, blood vessels in your skin temporarily shrink instantly if the skin is cut or if pressure is applied. Your body sheds skin cells when they die and replaces them with new ones. Three-quarters of the dust floating around your house is made up of dead skin cells.
So, if you think your skin holds everything together, and that’s all, you would be wrong. Your skin, the largest organ in your body, does a wide range of things that help you to stay alive and comfortable. When David wrote, “I will praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14), he was not aware of many things about our bodies that we know today. As we look at ourselves with tools such as microscopes, we see design in the construction of our bodies that David could not have imagined.
There is a wonderful book published in 1989 and now out of print that gives many other examples of the incredible designs we see in our bodies. The title is The Compass in Your Nose and Other Astonishing Facts About Humans by Marc McCutcheon and published by Jeremy Tarcher, Inc.
Many years ago, while working in a teen camp in Alaska, I heard a skeptical teenager disparage God’s existence by saying that if God existed, He certainly wouldn’t have made mosquitoes. I have heard similar comments about ticks, hornets, lice, locusts, spiders, and stink bugs. I suspect we have all had times when we were unhappy with annoying bugs, yet when you examine the role of insects, you realize they are critical to our own existence. The well-known entomologist E. O. Wilson said, “If human beings disappeared tomorrow, the world would go on with little change, but if invertebrates were to disappear, I doubt the human species could last more than a few months.” Why do we need insects?
Insects pollinate plants, aerate and fertilize the soil, decompose dung, and the bodies of things that have died. They control pests contributing 70 billion dollars every year to our national economy. Ninety-six percent of land-dwelling birds feed their young on insects, consuming approximately 400 to 500 million tons of insects. Most creatures in and around lakes and streams feed on insects, including fish and bears.
Why do we need insects? Humans are already seeing the cost of eradicating them. There are 68 species of bumblebees and roughly a fourth of those are in danger of becoming extinct. In Europe, the data shows a 76% drop in insects, including bees, beetles, lacewings, and katydids. The loss of pollinating insects has sharply affected the growing of many cash crops, and scientists are studying the effects of insecticide use.
Before we castigate God for what He has created, we need to be sure we have all the facts. We should learn what each creature does and how it contributes to our own well being. I dislike mosquitoes as much as the next person, but a majority of mosquitoes are pollinating insects. I am reactive to a bee sting, but bees contribute to much of what I eat. From our earliest existence, God has challenged us to take care of what He created. (See Genesis 2:15.) That includes caring for and protecting the agents that allow Earth to be hospitable to our existence.